Dolores has landscaped for private clients, maintained one client's small orchid collection, and keeps 30 houseplants.
Easy to Grow Perennial Flowers
Perennial flowers may be expensive but are well worth the investment. Perennial flowers come back year after year and many are low maintenance, easy-care plants. They are often native plants that are genetically programmed to succeed in your area. Native perennials will attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and local songbirds.
Some perennials spread. Most perennials can be divided in late winter or early spring so you can start off with a small garden and expand over the years.
Perennials occasionally intimidate the new gardener. And while some perennials are a bit persnickety, the flowering plants presented below are easy to grow, tough, and attractive.
Shop around. Some places, particularly local nurseries and farm stands, may offer cheaper plants than large garden centers; and can offer a greater variety than big box stores or chain garden centers. Local nurseries and plant shops can offer plants that grow well in your area as well as plants that are locally popular.
Buying and Planting New Perennials
- Purchase healthy-looking plants with turgid stems and good foliage color. Check for signs of disease or insects, holes in the leaves, discoloration, spots or odd marks on the tops or bottoms of the leaves. When you look at the leaves, make sure there are no yellowing or brown edges.
- Check the bottom of the pot. If you see roots poking out of the drainage hole, buy another plant.
- You can plant perennials in spring, summer, or fall. If you plant in summer, just make sure to water enough to keep the soil moist.
- Plant your perennials in rich, well-drained soil. Add some compost to the garden in spring and sprinkle some bone meal around or in the planting hole for full, bright-colored blooms. Make sure the hole that you dig is slightly larger than the root ball and fill in with compost-enriched soil.
- Water your newly planted perennial every day until the plant becomes established—that is, when the plant sprouts new leaves. Water every 5 days or so thereafter if it does not rain. In the second year, you can probably water once a week.
Bee Balm or Monarda
Bee balm is a tough native plant with wonderfully scented leaves. The vivid scarlet, tubular petals attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Bee balm grows up to 4' tall on long, slender stems with light green, elongated heart-shaped leaves. It is tolerant of many soils and prefers full sun and some moisture. The plant blooms early to late summer. Deadhead flowers for later bloom, but leave some late flowers on the plant in order for it to reseed.
Bee balm is available in compact sizes and shades of pink. Blue stocking is a blue-violet and Grand Marshall is fuchsia.
U. S. Plant zones 3 - 9
Clematis is a lovely vine that blooms in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Jackmanii as shown above bears large violet-purple blooms which fade somewhat with age. It flowers early to mid-summer. Prune back in late winter. The saying goes - clematis like their feet in the shade, so plant low-growing plants at the base of the vine.
Clematis comes in purple, violet-blue, pink, and white. Some varieties produce double blooms. U. S. Plant zone 4 - 9.
Coneflowers or Echinacea
Coneflower is a disease and insect-resistant native plant with a wide variety of forms and colors. Purple coneflowers grow 3 1/2 ' tall in full sun and well-drained soil. These drought-tolerant plants will flower throughout the summer as long as you deadhead spent blooms. Leave the last flowers on as the dried seed heads attract goldfinch in the fall. They also look lovely in the snow.
Coneflowers also come in white, green, non-drooping petals, and new double bloom varieties. Grow in U.S. Plant zone 5 - 8. Some varieties will last the winter in colder areas.
Daylilies may bloom for just one day but with the profusion of flowers, you won't feel cheated. Tolerant of drought and poor soil, daylilies come in a wide variety of colors and shapes from pale yellow to orange, peach, pink, variegated colors, and deep reds. Large flowers bloom on tough stems over flopping, sword-shaped leaves that form large clumps. Divide in spring. Miniature daylilies are available as well as new double blooms.
They grow in all regions of the USA.
Mexican Evening Primrose or Sundrops - Oenothera
Mexican evening primrose is a low-growing native plant with fine foliage and delicate, satiny blossoms. The 6 - 12 " plant is heat and drought tolerant so is a great addition to rock gardens. Varieties of sundrops come in white, yellow, and pink. Sundrops 'travel' around the garden but are easily controlled. Some varieties open only at night or on cloudy days, while others open at any time of day.
Grow in U. S. Plant zones 5 - 8.
This old-fashioned ice plant grows low and spreads. Small, vividly colored fuschia flowers bloom in early summer. Ice plants do well in full sun to partial shade and are tolerant of dry conditions and poor soils. They do very well in rock gardens, where they have a tendency to spill over edges quite prettily.
Grow in U. S. Plant zones 5 - 8
Queen Anne's Lace
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) is a tough native often seen growing along roadsides. It looks lovely in a mixed garden and is often used in flower arrangements. Queen Anne's lace can be purchased in a few garden centers or transplanted. The plant tolerates drought conditions and poor soils and will spread around the yard.
Queen Anne's lace is tall, between 3 - 4', with lacy foliage and a beautiful, round, flat series of very tiny florets. Similar species do not have the little dark dot in the center of the flower.
U. S. Plant zones 3 - 9.
Speedwell or Veronica
Veronica or speedwell produces stalks of flowers on tight, compact, branched plants. They prefer moist soil and full sun to partial shade. There are low-growing varieties and several color variations including deep purple, blue, violet, and pale violet. They attract butterflies. Deadhead to encourage a second bloom after early summer flowering. Veronica types can grow as tall as 5' or come in a low-growing version (veronica prostrata).
In the old days, Irish travelers wore a sprig of Veronica to protect them on trips, thus the name speedwell.
U. S. Plant zone 3 - 8.
Sea Holly or Eryngium
Sea holly or eryngium is an interesting, tough plant, and a great conversation piece for dry sun or well-drained areas. Sea holly grows 21/2' to 3' tall and produces metallic greenish, silvery blue flowers that darken with age throughout the summer. The flower is surrounded by a star of pointy spines. The spiny leaves are greenish, silvery blue. Propagate by dividing or taking root cuttings in early spring. Sea holly makes an excellent dried flower
U. S. Plant zones 4 - 9.
Pin Cushion Flower
Scabiosa or pincushion flower is an easy care plant with soft, 2" lavender blue,white, pink, or dark red flowers that bloom from early summer until fall. Make sure to deadhead spent blossoms. The 12" to 18" plant may need some support so they do not flop over.
Propagate by root division in early spring.
U. S. Plant zone 4 - 9.
Sedum or Autumn Joy
Autumn Joy Sedum is one of the largest of the huge sedum family of succulent plants. The 2 ' tall, shrubby sedum begins to bloom in late summer. Broccoli-shaped flowers start off green in late summer, maturing to pink, bronze-red, or burgundy in fall. Pinch back in July to prevent the heavy flowers from flopping over in the fall.
Plant in well-drained soil. They are drought-tolerant. Water when first planted, then allow to dry before watering—succulents require little water. Full sun to partial shade.
U. S. Plant zones 3 - 8.
Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) is a lush, tall perennial daisy with dark green strap-shaped leaves. The flower rises up on a sturdy stem with white petals and a yellow center. If you cut the spent flowers to encourage a second bloom, leave the second bloom to go to seed. Divide plant in late winter or early spring.
Shasta daisies grow 3' or taller with 3" blooms. Grow in full sun. Shasta daisies adapt well to clay soils. They make a nice cutting flower for arrangements.
U. S. Plant zone 5 - 8.
Tickseed (Coreopsis) is a 1 1/2' to 2' plant with lacy foliage covered with tiny daisy shaped flowers throughout the summer. Deadhead to encourage more blooms. Tickseed tolerates dry conditions. Coreposis comes in several varieties and colors. Moonbeam produces a pale violet flower while sunbeam is yellow. Some tickseed spreads while others form bushy clumps.
U. S. Plant zones 4 - 9.
Keep Those Perennials Coming Back
The following spring after you have planted perennials, check the garden for new growth. It is easy to mistake young plants for weeds. You can wind up pulling up last year's plants. Learn the leaf shapes of your plants so that you can recognize them early in the season.
Take photographs of the plants when they are in bloom. Step away from the garden to get an overall view. This can help you locate the plant the following spring. You can also make a simple map for reference in the spring.
When you plant your new perennial, tuck the plant tag so just a bit is sticking out of the soil. You can also make or purchase plant tags to place near the perennial. This is a simple way to locate the plants in spring.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Dolores Monet